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Only three states in the nation are faring as poorly in an aviation rebound as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, according to new data.
In December, the year-over-year passenger count at the airport was down 74.3 percent from December 2019, according to figures from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as reported by Airlines for America, the main airline-industry trade organization.
The analysis puts Reagan National, but not Washington Dulles International Airport or Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, into the District of Columbia for purposes of a state-by-state analysis of December’s transportation situation.
Dulles is included with Virginia (passenger totals at commercial airports in the commonwealth were down 59.2 percent from a year before) while BWI is incorporated into Maryland (down 64.2 percent from a year before).
Of the three airports, National has been most impacted by the COVID turndown, even though Dulles relies on international flights (many of them not currently operating) for about a third of its normal passenger totals. BWI has fared better than either of the Northern Virginia facilities, because it is geared more toward leisure travel and because its main operator, Southwest Airlines, operates mostly domestic flights..
Nationally, the largest year-over-year dropoff in reported TSA-screening totals came in Vermont, off 82.8 percent in December. Other states with the largest declines:
• Hawaii, down 75.9 percent.
• New York, down 74.8 percent.
• California, down 73.5 percent.
• New Mexico, down 73.4 percent.
Also off more than 70 percent are Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, which like most of the others at the top of the ranking are in jurisdictions with heavier lockdown policies than in the rest of the nation.
Most of the rest of the country saw declines of between 50 and 70 percent, although a few saw smaller dropoffs:
• Wyoming was down just 27.8 percent from a year before.
• Montana was down 45.3 percent.
• Idaho was down 48 percent.
• South Dakota was down 48.2 percent.
Among Gulf Coast states, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas were all down less than 60 percent, while Louisiana was down 62.8 percent.
(Because figures from TSA are reported daily, they are able to be aggregated into monthly reports more quickly than data supplied by individual airports and airport-operating authorities. December’s passenger totals from the area’s three airports are likely to be reported by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Maryland state government in early February.)
The U.S. aviation industry was coming off a record year of nearly 927 million enplanements in 2019 only to see itself demolished by the COVID crisis. Ordinarily handling several million passengers a day, the nation’s airports bottomed out at a flaccid national total of 87,534 on April 14 before beginning a long slog back.
As with the nation as a whole, it seems to be a case of two steps forward and one step back (or perhaps the reverse) as the airline industry tries to get back on its feet, with every bump up in passenger counts so far followed by an increase in cases and more public hysteria, leading to a pullback in travel.
Recently, passenger counts nationally have been down 60 to 65 percent compared to a year before.
The count of 1,327,289 passengers going through TSA checkpoints on Jan. 3 was the highest total since March 15, although numbers have since receded, as January has never been a major month for leisure travel.